April 16, 2024

Rail trails tend to be kinda straight…


If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.

-Barack Obama


Another warm day!  And Phyllis is available to walk!  I’ve been planning on walking the other half of the (as of yet) unfinished stretch of the Mass Central Rail Trail, but the appeal of walking the whole thing tugs at me with force.  A quick call to Phyllis, a pat on Waldo’s head and it is decided.  We’re going to walk from the beginning of the thing in Sudbury to its terminus in Hudson, roughly 7.5 miles.

There’s a bit of a snag here.  I can’t really tell where the Sudbury end of the trail is.  I’ve read it’s somewhere in the Sudbury/Wayland area, but other than that, I don’t have a clue.  I always knew where the trail ends in Hudson, because I’ve been up there and I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of the trail in Sudbury, but I’ve not seen where the construction ends.  Phyllis and I bushwacked our way through it a couple of years back, but the plan, apparently, is not to pave that entire route.  I can go online (God bless the 21st century) and follow the route of the old railroad bed, but again, since the trail isn’t yet finished, there is no indication of where the rail trail will terminate in Sudbury.

This is just the kind of adventure I revel in!  I’m pretty sure the trail at least goes as far as Route 20 in Sudbury, so I find a nearby business with a parking lot and we start there.  Once out of the car, I see that the trail, now just a wide muddy track bearing deep tread marks from heavy equipment, crosses Route 20.  There are fences and No Trespassing signs, but, damn the signs, full speed ahead.  We head that-a-way with the idea of going to where it ends and turning around to complete the walk into Hudson.

The temperature is in the mid-50s, the skies are clear and there is no significant breeze.  Like I said, the track is a little muddy and scoured with the rutted wake of long-gone construction equipment.  The ground is not as firm and solid as the part of the trail that Waldo and I traversed in Hudson.  On both sides are stands of tall old growth white pine, just like the rest of the trail.  Here and there, we pass old, rusted pieces of railroad remnants and one large, still standing, signal light.  It’s the kind that you see where railroads cross roads, but there’s no road out here.  It’s just standing there, all alone, out in the woods.  Things have changed, I guess, since steam locomotives pulled long lines of railcars through here.

We walk a good half mile and the trail just keeps going.  There are doggy footprints in the mud that aren’t Waldo’s, and we do pass a couple of other people walking dogs.  There must be others, beside myself, who, given the fact they must do doggy duty, are always on the lookout for new places to go.  It is interesting that most of the people we pass are walking their dogs.  Anyway, it’s late in the day, we have at least 7 miles to walk to get back to Hudson and we’re not sure just how much farther away the end of the trail is.  We turn around and decide to explore the rest at a later date.

Meanwhile, Waldo is having a grand old time, walking through the mud and exploring the country off to the sides.  There must be new smells and sticks that draw him onward, much like the allure of finding new ground to explore has for me.  He’s trotting this way and that, nose just above the ground, stopping and staring into the undergrowth and being generally engaged in living in the moment out in nature.  He’s enjoying his time out here at least as much as I am.

Phyllis and I chat as we walk along, as we always do.  We finished the “36 Questions to  Fall in Love” questions when we were on the Bay Circuit Trail, so we talk about family, our personal histories and philosophies and upcoming trips.  She just returned from hiking down into the Grand Canyon and back out again.  That’s a trip of about 8 miles, each way, with 4,000 ft in altitude gain!  I’m impressed.  I know my physical limitations, from all the walking we’ve done, and I’m not at all sure I could do it.  Maybe not all in one go anyway.  We also talk about my upcoming trip to Switzerland and the magical draw of international travel.  We decide, if we can arrange it (something that is not at all certain) that our next trip together will be to Tanzania to volunteer, for a couple of weeks, as teachers for the local kids.  That’s something I’ve explored online and there are organizations that exist to connect potential volunteers to the needs of people around the world.  It appeals strongly to both of us old folks.  It’s a pity I can’t take Waldo.  He’d love it, of course.

We get back to the car, I drop Phyllis off at her car, then I drive down Route 20, trying to locate the beginning of the trail in Sudbury.  I can’t see the thing from the highway, but I can stop and get out of the car at places where side-streets pass over it.  I’m able to track it to a power substation, about a mile or so from where we turned around, just at the place where a line of high-tension powerline towers takes off and heads toward Wayland.  Phyllis and I walked under those same towers some time ago, so I know that the trail must stop at the substation, even though I can’t get close enough to actually see it.  That makes perfect sense because the powerlines Eversource buried alongside the trail have to connect to something somewhere and a substation is the logical place for them to do that.

We need another good day to explore the rest of the Mass Central Rail Trail in Sudbury.  That should not be much of a problem.  There are no bad days for a good walk.

There are just some days that are warmer, dryer and less muddy than others.


Not really sure what this was supposed to signal…

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